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Apperances can be deceiving. The smiling woman above looks like a sweet old lady (or perhaps she’s middle-aged).

But don’t be fooled. This pleasant-looking woman opened a can of whoop-ass at the final panel discussion of the Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention. She rained hellfire and brimstone upon the audience, and placed at least two of the panelists on an express train to Hell.

As we mentioned earlier, that last panel “discussion” was insane. It was a no-holds-barred fight between the Federalist Society’s two major constituencies: the social conservatives and the libertarians. It was a smart move to save this intra-societal slugfest until the end of the weekend.
The nominal title of the panel: “The Role of Government in Defining Our Culture.” A more appropriate title for the panel: “Watch Libertarians and Social Conservatives Rant at Each Other About Gay Marriage.”

The combatants participants:

Moderator cum lion tamer: Hon. Edwin Meese III, former Attorney General
For the libertarians: Dr. Charles Murray, AEI; Mr. Anthony Romero, ACLU
For the social conservatives: Mrs. Phyllis Schlafly, Eagle Forum; Professor Hadley Arkes, Amherst College
Kinda in between: Professor William Eskridge, Yale Law School
Kinda irrelevant: Hon. Walter Dellinger, currently of O’Melveny & Myers and Duke Law School (and former acting Solicitor General)
A blow-by-blow account of this intellectual battle royal, after the jump.

The room was packed, standing room only (with even Judge Edith Jones on her feet). And the mood was a bit tense, perhaps because the event pitted social conservatives against libertarians.

The Federalist Society is an uneasy alliance between these two groups. They join forces to combat what they view as the chokehold of liberalism on the American legal academy; but they actually disagree on a whole host of issues. These disagreements rose to the surface in this steel cage match lively panel discussion.

(Random observation: In addition to Judge Jones, we spotted another celebrity of the legal world — R. Ted Cruz, Solicitor General of Texas, and possible Fifth Circuit nominee — standing near the back of the room. He was eating a Toblerone. The man has good taste in chocolate.)

Here’s our condensed version of the panel discussion:

Walter E. Dellinger III: I’m going to give you a dry analysis of the Supreme Court’s religion jurisprudence. I’ll be the only panelist to talk about specific court cases, instead of policy and philosophy.

As a result, I will be ignored by all of my co-panelists. But that’s fine with me. The role of government in defining our culture is a hot-button issue — a veritable minefield for a potential Supreme Court nominee like me. So I’m going to keep my nose clean and say as little of interest as possible. I don’t want some Republican senator quoting my remarks back to me five years from now!

Anthony D. Romero: Hey everybody, guess what? I’M GAY!!! And how, I ask you, how would allowing me to marry my loving partner of ten years undermine your marriage?

You people are fascists! The role of government in defining our culture should be minimal.

Charles Murray: After this panel is over, I’m going to go home, make myself a martini, light a cigar, and start breaking the law — by playing online poker.

Do you really want to legislate against my fun? The role of government in defining our culture should be minimal.

Phyllis M. Schlafly: This country is going to hell in a handbasket. America’s public schools suck ass — and they teach it, too, along with all other kinds of perversity. Whether western civilization can be saved depends upon how loudly I harangue you today.

It is inevitable: The government will play SOME role in defining our culture. So let it be the right culture: the 1950′s culture of Leave It to Beaver.

[Thunderous, sustained ovation from the social conservatives in the room.]

William N. Eskridge, Jr.: Maybe some of you social conservatives want government to play a large role in defining our culture. But attempts to enlist the government as an ally in the culture wars often have unintended, and undesirable, consequences.

So can’t we all just get along? And have you seen this fascinating data from the Netherlands about same-sex marriage?

Hadley P. Arkes: Of course the government shapes our culture. It’s what the institution of law is all about. You can’t say “Don’t legislate morality,” because all laws — laws against killing, or laws against racial discrimination — reflect certain moral views.

I will now repeat this point ad infinitum for the rest of the panel. I will also go tobogganing down the slippery slope of polygamy and incestuous unions. Wheeee!!!

[Thunderous applause from the social conservatives, although not quite as long an ovation as the one for Phyllis Schlafly.]

During the part of the discussion when the panelists addressed each other, Anthony Romero got all up in Phyllis Schlafly’s grill:

Romero: How would allowing me and my partner to get married jeopardize your marriage, Phyllis? How? How?
Schlalfly: You want answers?
Romero: I think I’m entitled to them.
Schlalfly: You want answers?
Romero: I want the truth!
Schlafly: You can’t handle the truth!

(It wasn’t exactly like this; we’re paraphrasing. But not as roughly as you might think.)

Finally, the most dramatic moment of the conference. During the question-and-answer session, the kindly-looking African-American woman pictured above — who had asked some wacky questions at prior panels — takes the microphone. And then she starts chanting, very loudly, over and over again:

“THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH! THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH! THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH!”

Somehow Romero manages to interrupt her forceful repetition of Romans 6:23. He asks her, in essence, what she thinks about him and his male partner.

“Wages” Lady: Do you and your partner like to engage in THOSE acts?
Romero (with lip-smacking, “mmm-mmm-girl” relish): You better believe we do!
“Wages” Lady: YOU ARE GOING TO HELL!!! FOR THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH!!! THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH!!!

After more shouting and struggle, before the shocked-and-awed audience — one half-expects Romero to leap out of his chair and start clawing at “Wages” Lady — General Ed Meese somehow gets her to sit down.

Later on in the panel, Professor Eskridge pointedly notes that it is “not productive” to engage in personal attacks upon those with whom we disagree. It may not be “productive”; but it sure is fun!

To sum up, this panel was a delicious bitchfest. You wouldn’t want EVERY panel at a conference to be like this, because you’d never survive to the end. But one panel like this is needed to get everyone’s blood flowing.

The wages of confrontation is entertainment!!! The wages of confrontation is entertainment!!!


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